Page images

it, if fragments of spiritual life are all that have appeared in us. For in Christ's servants, their true life, their life which they derive from Him, is not a faint spark seen here and there, a mere light in a dark place which it cannot enlighten; but it is a brightness clear as the brightness of the sun, which shines through the whole nature, the abiding sign of God's presence. What, therefore, is our state if there be nothing of this in us, but only a few sparks, or at the most a few flashes, which went out in an instant? What must it be even more, if not so much as these fragments are to be found in us?

This, surely, is a consideration of the greatest importance to us all. If we were to be called now as others have been called, what would the year past, the last year of our lives, as it would then have been, which determined our state for ever; what record would it have to present to us? Much, it may be, which has passed within the last twelve months, we cannot now remember; there is no other record of it in existence but God's only. Yet, much also we can remember; much we can at this moment feel, quite enough to enable us to say whether our actual condition claim our most earnest thankfulness, or our lively hope, or our fear and shame, or our repentance and confusion of face, stopping short only of despair.

For those whose spiritual life is predominant in them and habitual, who feel that sin is more hateful to them than it was twelve months since, and Christ far dearer; who feel, too, that sin is overcome by them more frequently and more easily; who, assured by the testimony of their conscience that their faith was stedfast, might hear without alarm the call which has been heard by some of their brethren; and might lie down on their beds to rise no more in this world, with an assured hope that they were Christ's in death as in life; for them there has been more than a gathering up of fragments; it is for them only to follow the example of the apostle, to forget the things which are behind, and to reach forth unto the things which are before, and so to press forward for the prize of their high calling in Christ Jesus. But for those who are far less blessed, with whom sin has striven far more successfully, who have not won their victory, nor seem yet to be winning it; for them it is an anxious question, what fragments of life could be gathered up from the past year ; what signs that, if they were not victorious, they were not yet wholly vanquished, but were still struggling against their enemy. Do God's angels, as they watch this struggle, regard it now with more of hope or of fear, than they regarded it a year ago?

What has been the effect of all that has hap

escape from it.

pened to us, either outwardly or inwardly? Have we prayed the less or the more? For where spiritual life is not predominant, the best sparks and fragments of it which can be found are our prayers, if they have been frequent and earnest. For such prayers show that we have known our danger and have dreaded it, and have desired to

from it. What number, then, of prayers spoken from the heart, could the angels record of us from the past year? Or, again, what fruits could they find of such prayers? What evil habit overcome or weakened, what sin laid aside, what temper corrected, what generous or humble or kindly feelings entertained, what deeds of positive and willing duty rendered to man or to God? Do not be afraid of remembering such, lest they should make you proud : you are far more apt to be proud if you do not remember them. I mean that pride belongs to our common state ; if we do not look into our hearts at all, we are quite willing to take it for granted that we have much to be proud of. But the actual search, and the finding some few fragments of good amidst a wide waste of unfruitfulness or of sin; if this makes us proud, we must be mad. Much rather, as I believe, would it fill us with humility, to see how little of good our careful search could discover, yet with hope, with zeal, with gratitude to God, that we had tasted even thus slightly of His gracious promises, that we had found Him faithful when we had turned to Him, that He had given us an earnest of what He would do in us more perfectly, if our faith and watchfulness had been stronger. Yes, remember, I entreat you, whatever good thing has appeared in you; observe it well, weigh it, value it, and you will surely see how little there is in it to make you proud, how much to make you penitent and yet thankful, humble and yet full of hope.

So, gathering up the fragments which remain, let us pray, ere the new Christian

year us next Sunday, that beginning with these we may be enabled so to add to them by Christ's Spirit, that our account next year may speak of more than scattered fragments; may bear witness rather to portions of holy and spiritual life large and frequent, interrupted only by occasional falls. May we grow in grace, and in the faith and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be His, not only at some few moments of our lives, but habitually and for ever.

dawns upon

November 21, 1841.



ST. JOHN, xx. 27.

Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold

my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side : and be not faithless, but believing.

Hebrews, iv. 3.

We who have believed do enter into rest.

Two sorts of language are held respecting faith and belief, each combining in itself, as often happens, a curious mixture of truth and error. The one insists that belief is a thing wholly independent of our will, depending simply on the greater or less force of the evidence set before our minds; and that therefore, as faith can be no virtue, so unbelief can be no sin. The other pronounces that all unbelief arises out of an evil heart, and a dislike to the truths taught; nay, that if any

« PreviousContinue »